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Despite pandemic, some nonprofits still seeing support

Raising money is never easy for nonprofits, said Nick Coulter, the co-founder of Person Centered Housing Options, which offers support and housing to the homeless. 

And a recent Siena poll said it's getting harder. Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers -- 63% -- said they will donate money, food, or gifts to charitable organizations that focus on the needy during the holiday season. That's down from 68% in 2018, and a high of 81% in 2007. Economic and pandemic-based pressures are to blame. 

For newer charities like Coulter's, name recognition matters for fundraising. That's one of many reasons why the nonprofit concentrated its efforts on big events like concerts for fundraisers before the pandemic. 

Those events haven't been possible in the last several months, so Coulter said they’ve reimagined their process. They now focus on smaller, frequent digital fundraisers. He said he works with employees and supporters to create personalized appeals for support. Coulter said it saves time and money while being more effective.

“I really think there’s a bit of difference. You have to reach out to folks on a different platform; obviously, you have to reach out to them virtually,” said Coulter. “Even if we raise $300 or $400 on somebody’s birthday, it's a significant amount if you do it multiple times.”

The YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County’s Carrie Michel-Wynne said her nonprofit has also found success amid the pandemic. The YWCA helps women and girls who are faced with personal crises, including homelessness and teen pregnancy. 

Each holiday season, it collects gift lists for more than 170 needy families. She said this year’s results were a surprise. 

“We were anticipating that families wouldn’t donate because of all the restrictions, but we’ve been able to match all of our families,” said Michel-Wynne. “In times of need, our community has always rallied and given so generously, despite hard times.”

Michel-Wynne said they are still collecting gifts for families in their emergency shelter. 

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.